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College basketball: Pickford leads West men to victory

BY AARON HAGEN The Globe WORTHINGTON -- DeShawn Pickford is starting to find his rhythm. And so too is the Minnesota West men's basketball team. Pickford scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Bluejays to a come-from-behind 81-77 victory over V...

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Minnesota West's DeShawn Pickford (3) scores for the Bluejays in Saturday men's basketball action. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)

BY AARON HAGEN

The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- DeShawn Pickford is starting to find his rhythm.

And so too is the Minnesota West men’s basketball team.

Pickford scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Bluejays to a come-from-behind 81-77 victory over Vermilion. It was West’s fourth consecutive victory after starting the season 0-3.

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“It feels real great, but we have to keep on going though,” said Pickford, who had 15 points the night before. “We can’t be satisfied with this win. We have to keep moving forward.”

It was a hard-fought victory for West on Saturday as Vermilion led for much of the game that featured eight lead changes and eight ties.

“Never give up attitude, that’s what we have,” MW head coach Aaron Poor Bear said. “It’s just picking away. We know we have to get stops, and we know we have to execute on offense. That’s what we’re doing right now.”

After a back-and-forth first half, the Ironmen finished on a 16-6 run and led 48-38 at the break.

West scored the first six points of the second half, but Vermilion answered with eight quick points to lead by 12.

Led by seven points from Pickford, West answered with a 13-0 run to take a 57-56 lead.

“I was just trying to get the win for my team,” Pickford said. “I play hard day and night just to get the victory at the end. It’s my teammates pushing me everyday in practice so I could get to my full potential I need to get at.”

The Ironmen regained the lead on a three-point play, and pushed the advantage to 73-65 with 6:10 remaining.

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From that point on, it was all Minnesota West as it closed the game on a 16-4 run.

“We just have to adapt to the situation,” Pickford said. “We have to come together as one to get the victory at the end.”

Pickford converted a three-point play and Kuol Chol hit a trio of free throws. Angel Arroyo scored on a drive to the basket and Alex Brown made a shot to tie the score at 75.

“The guys are coming together,” Poor Bear said. “We’re playing hard and you have to give them all the credit. They have the never die attitude. It’s great leadership on Alex Brown, great leadership on DeShawn Pickford. It’s fantastic.”

Arroyo made another basket and followed with two free throws to push the lead to four points, 79-75, with 1:05 remaining. Denario Jackson answered with two free throws to bring Vermilion with two points.

“Defensively, we decided to crank it up,” Poor Bear said. “We switched to man to man and that made a huge difference for us.”

A shot clock violation on West gave the ball back to the Ironmen with 24 seconds left. However, a 3-point attempt was off the mark, and Brown corralled the rebound. He was fouled and made both free throws to seal the victory.

“It’s excellent momentum,” Poor Bear said. “My guys are excited to play basketball. That’s what you want.”

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Pickford had eight rebounds on the night, while Brown had 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Chol finished with 14 points and 12 boards. Arroyo added 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

“It’s just being patient and moving the ball and trusting each other to do our jobs,” Poor Bear said. “It was pretty balanced. They do a good job. We want to make sure everybody gets a tough and everybody gets movement. We want the ball in AB’s (Alex Brown) hands. He’s kind of our leader right now. Once he gets the ball, he knows how to dish it out and it kind of gets everybody in a flow.”

Demetrice Mitchell had 25 points for the Ironmen, while Bradlee Lewis finished with 24 and Jackson had 18.

Vermilion 48 77Bluejays 38 81VERMILION (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Jackson 1-4-7-18, Johnson 0-1-2-4, Lewis 6-3-0-24, Mitchell 1-8-6-25, Spates 0-2-2-6. Totals 8-18-17-77.BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Chol 0-3-8-14, Carter 0-1-0-2, Pickford 0-8-11-27, Preston 0-1-0-2, Brown 1-6-4-19, Jacobson 0-2-1-5, Arroyo 0-5-2-12. Totals 1-26-26-81.

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